Holidays bring added fire risk

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

When people gather together and string Christmas lights, light candles and cook large meals, house fires are more likely to break out.
So this holiday season, from Thanksgiving until the new year, while spending time together families are encouraged to remember a few safety tips.
Brian Rigby, of Servpro of Tupelo, said the holidays are more fire prone because people are home more and they are cooking, lighting fires in the fireplace, using decorative candle holders and leaving Christmas trees lit and unattended.
“It really is a perfect storm,” he said. “And this year, with another week in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, people will have their tree up another week, and that’s another five days for the tree to dry out. And, as presents accumulate around the tree and people get busier closer to Christmas, they are less likely to water the tree.”
Rigby and Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker both said keeping a live Christmas tree well-watered is very important during the holiday season.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, an average of 240 home structure fires begin with a Christmas tree each year, causing an average of 13 deaths, 27 injuries and $16.7 million in property damage nationwide. Another 150 home structure fires come from decorative holiday lighting.
Rigby said often, small fires cause enough damage to ruin a family’s Christmas, starting on the stove or Christmas tree and causing enough smoke to damage insulation and duct work.
“A lot of years, we’ve been in our customers’ homes on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day,” he said. “The house is damaged bad enough that we have to take their furniture, presents and Christmas tree out of the home.”
Walker said when using extension cords outdoors, make sure they are intended for outdoor use and insulated. Don’t overload outlets and use a maximum of three strands of lights on a tree.
Rigby and Walker agreed, never leave a lit Christmas tree, candle, stove or fire unattended – turn them off before leaving the house.
“We hope these tips will be a reminder to Tupelo area families to make fire prevention a priority in their holiday preparations, so they can spend the season enjoying family and friends, not dealing with the aftermath of a fire,” Rigby said.
jb.clark@journalinc.com